(Rob) Holding on…a scrappy but welcome win :-)

May 2, 2022

Well well well…3 wins in a row against: Chelsea, Utd and now West Ham! Well done to our team and it makes it all the more painful that we could not get a point against Palace, Brighton and Southampton. A win against Southampton would have been sufficient to put us safely into the 4th place and actually challenge for 3rd given Chelsea’s woes…but the past is the past…and at this stage, we are just holding on to our Top 4 spot.

We did not play well. We did not control the game at all, especially the first 15 and the last 15 mins of the game. We gave away the ball and some chances easily and in the first half, we were lethargic. Rob Holding scored a goal on a set piece before half-time but not late enough in the half as 6 minutes later, West Ham levelled due to poor defending from Tavares and a good cross and finish from our opponents. The first 25 mins of the second half we did play better and with intent and a bit of urgency. Gabriel scored an almost identical goal than his CB partner in the second half and then we just tried not to conceded but at the same time, we did have some chances to put the game to bed but Nketiah did not have his accurate shooting boots on yesterday…

So we will take the game and three points, the goals from our CBs and our ability to win despite playing like a team fighting for relegation at times…

Ramsdale – 7 – some good saves

Tomy – 6 – good to see him back in action

Rob – 8.5 – deputized for White and definitely my MOTM. Played well in both boxes. Ramsdale credites Rob Holding’s first ever goal in the EPL to his new hairline – he is a funny bloke this Ramsdale

Gabs – 7.5 – a well taken goal, could have done a bit more on the goal we conceded

Nuno – 4.5 – at fault for the goal, decent going forward but too often exposed defensively

El Neny – 6 – a fighter but some unusual reckless passes

Xhaka – 6 – a fighter, some odd passing as well

Saka – 7 – unusually quite for his standards but did create some chances nevertheless

Ode – 6 – A day off.

Gabi – 6 – A day off as well.

Nketiah – 7.5 – Adding some pace and pressing to our game up front. Unlucky not to score, had some decent chances but overall, did well. What if he stayed and Laca left?…He is definitely in a good moment…

Next up, Leeds – another final, another must win! COYG!


Abraham or Jesus? Will one of these “biblical” forwards be our saviour? or will Darwin be the catalyst to our further evolution?…

April 25, 2022
Comparison

Edu has indicated to ESPN Brazil that, irrespective of the ranking at the season, the team will go after 2 major transfers to upgrade the team this summer. The board has been informed and been given names and has not rejected the Edu-Arteta request as far as it is known…

One of the area where a recruit is expected is for the Forward position. Few names have been emerging as top contenders:

  • Abraham, former Chelsea and currently Roma player;
  • Jesus, current Man City player;
  • D. Nunez, current Benfica player

Besides these 3 names, the following players have also been mentionned: C-Lewin (Everton), O.Watkins (A. Villa), I. Toney (Brentford) and C. De Ketelaere (Brugges).

So who would like to join us and why?

COYG!

  • C-Lewin and O.Watkins but these names have been cooled off recently;

3 points and a balance to find…

April 24, 2022

We have scored 7 goals vs Chelsea and Man Utd and we have conceded three too…

We had loads of chances vs Southampton too but we have conceded goals easily vs all teams in the last 4 games…

It seems that our defensive solidity has left us with Tomy, Tierney and Partey’s absence but it is fair to say that Odegaard, Saka, Smith-Rowe and even Martinelli and Nketiah have helped us in creating and even scoring chances…yet we need to find the right balance. We have conceded goals in silly ways and at times, we have been sliced open like soft butter…We are too shaky at the back and with 5 games to play against teams that do create chances (West Ham, Leeds, Tottenham, Newcastle and even Everton), we do need to shore things up if we want to seriously challenge for Top 4…

I think that Tomy being back in the fold will help us tremendously for a start…

Overall, our win against Utd was well deserved but if if weren’t for a poor PK by Fernandes, we could have lost some precious points yesterday…Saka, Odegaard and Xhaka were outstanding while Nketiah and Smith-Rowe were subdued. Tavares had been both abysmal and brilliant and El Neny was his usual hard-working self. White-Gabs are not showing the same confidence as before and Ramsdale did have some good saves while Cedric was average…So in the end, we will take the 3 points with the comfort to know that we can create chances and the worry that we can also concede big chances rather easily and clumsily…

Xhaka is so far not having his worse season with us and his goal made a huge difference in the game momentum. Good for him…and for us 😛

COYG! With Spurs losing 2 points, we need to get 6 points from our next two games but it won’t be easy. The tricky game for me will be the one against the resurgent Newcastle while facing a surviving Everton may not be easy either. Get 13 points from the next 5 games and the Top 4 is with us…get less and it will be hard…


Chelsea – AFC, no chance to get points?

April 20, 2022

Chelsea is a by far superior team to us at all levels: financial (Abra and future owners), managerial (Tuchel), technical, physical and mental (their team is better than us in all positions)…they are also back to winning ways and despite the ordeal related to their club, they are back to confident play…so based on the above, I do not expect us to get any points but then again…

  • We lost to Brighton and allowed goals to them, a rare feat they achieved in the EPL before us and
  • We lost to Southampton after they were thrashed by…Chelsea

so odd things can happen and maybe a London derby might prompt us to find our winning ways again…

Chelsea players to watch: Havertz, Mount, Lukaky, Reece James, Alonso

AFC players to play a key role: White, Xhaka, Lokonga

So my prediction is a 4-1 loss to Chelsea tonight and my hope is for a 2-2…

Predicted line-up: Ramsdale – Cedric, White, Gabs, Xhaka – Lokonga, El Neny – Saka, Ode, ESR – Laca

Wanted line up: Ramsdale – White, Holding, Gabs – Cedric, Lokonga, Xhaka, Saka – Ode (or ESR) – Laca, Martinelli (or Pepe)

COYG! Let us fight at least tonight…


Our core team…don’t disturb it for 3 years, at least

April 14, 2022
Copyright: Trendsmap

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey – Saka, Ode (or ESR), Martinelli

+ Turner, Holding, Saliba (hopefully), Lokonga, ESR (or Ode), Balogun

These players should be retained imho. Does not matter if Barcelona or Real or Bayern or Liverpool or City come knocking, we gotta keep these players. They are mostly young, identify with our club and have been good performers overall, at least this season for the most part. Why shall we sell them? If you sell them, you must (i) get a HUGE sum for their services and (ii) have an equally good replacement available immediately.

What we know is that we need TWO key players in our starting XI: a better CM and a better CF/FW. Tchouameni and Nunez would be ideal but let us see who joins us – it will depend on CL qualification as well. I hope we do not get Neves and Morata for example…They are good but they won’t transform our team into a much better team, which is what we are after.

The point of that post is: KEEP THE CORE OF THE TEAM, for the next 3 years if possible.


Is a change in formation the key to recovering our form?

April 10, 2022
Credit: Arsenal FC via Getty Images / Copyright: 2022

One thing is for sure is that we are missing Tomy, Tierney and Partey…

The other thing is that Cedric, Nuno/Xhaka and Lokonga are not at the same level as our usual starters…

The next thing is that even when playing Tierney and Partey recently, we struggled to score with open play goals and that recently, we have struggled a lot with putting our chances away when we had them…sometimes due to outstanding GK from our opponent and sometimes due to our own lack of cutting edge (Ode, Laca…).

Another factor is that I have seen Saka and Martinelli getting frustrated a bit more and I don’t know if it is fatigue or just annoyance with the lack of chance creation but it is not good to see…

Without Tomy, Partey and Tierney, we are less effective defensively and offensively and for me, the only way forward is to change the formation to a 343 or 3412…the point is to use our 3 CBs and to use our Wingbacks to really create chances from the wings and to block oppositions on the wings better as well…

Holding has been in top form when coming on for us. It does not mean that he will excel if he starts but I think that he can help us greatly so I d play him…

Ramdale – White, Holding, Gabs – Cedric, Lokonga (or El Neny), Xhaka, Saka (or Nuno) – Ode (or ESR) – Pepe (Saka or Nketiah or Laca), Martinelli

I think that set up would allow us to make the most of our available players, to regain some defensive solidity and add to our width offensively…

So what do you think?


AFC vs Brighton, another final in the Top 4 race

April 9, 2022

So it seems I keep on writing similar posts week-in, week-out…the margin for error to land the coveted Top 4 spot just got thinner after last week’s abysmal defeat to C. Palace. Things got also tougher with us with the loss of key players to injury: Tomy, Tierney and Partey. Three of our better players this season but we just have to accept the situation but also accept that Tierney and Partey often get injured…Laca is under pressure to score goals but it has to be said that Ode has missed some very good chances lately too, chances that could have changed the course of our games if they ended being goals…

So here we are about to face Brighton, a decent well-drilled team full of spirited players and some talented players too (Maupay, Bissouma, McAllister, Lamptey, Duffy, Dunk, Trosser, Dedonker…). It will not be a walk in the park and we need to be ready for a fight, to face pressure on set-pieces and also quick transition…

Our most likely line-up will be:

Ramsdale – Cedric, White, Gabs, Tavares – Lokonga, Xhaka – Saka, Ode, Martinelli – Laca

My preferred line up would be:

Ramsdale – White, Holding, Gabs – Cedric, El Neny, Xhaka, Tavares – Ode (or ESR ) – Saka, Laca (or Martinelli)

We cannot afford to drop any points today as Tottenham are in great form and favoured to win at Villa. Some players like Romero and Betancur are really helping Tottenham be more solid and in Kane-Son, they have a very dynamic and lethal duo so I do not expect the F*in* Spurs to drop many points until the end of the season…


Martinelli through the middle?

April 8, 2022

LBG says: “Given Palace ( and probably Brighton) have realised that a ” dropping” Lacazette, IF GIVEN TIME to receive and turn, can feed our wide players into the space he has vacated. And having realised it, put a shadow tightly on him. Is it time to try a new “No 9″ in Lacas current position? I suggest yes, since there is no scope for any more serious mistakes from now on!


I believe, a newly bulked out and ” thoughtful”, Martinelli should be used there at the start on Saturday. Sure, he may get chopped ( and certainly wont be protected by the idiots in black), but could his improved toughness and in particular speed create the chances we need from the off at the Emirates? Discuss.”

NB: I wont be able to put a post up for the game this week-end so if anybody wants to, please do 🙂


No Tierney, No Partey, No Tomy, No 4th place party?

April 6, 2022

So here is the update since our humbling loss to Vieira’s palace:

  1. We lost after a very poor performance;
  2. Tierney has been injured on his knee while playing for Scotland, will be operated shortly and unavailable for the rest of the season;
  3. Partey also aggravated his thigh injury but could be 2-3 weeks out;
  4. Tomy is expected to train again after the 16th of April…

So we are

  • without our main LB for the remainder of the season;
  • without our main RB until the third week of April if all goes well;
  • without our main midfielder but do not know for how long.

Here are our options:

  • Play Cedric at RB until Tomy comes back and Tavares at LB
  • Play Cedric at RB until Tomy comes back and Xhaka at LB
  • Play Tomy when he comes back at RB and Cedric at LB
  • Play Xhaka-Lokonga as our double-pivot until Partey is back
  • Play Xhaka-El Neny as our double-pivot until Partey is back
  • Play Lokonga-El Neny as our double pivot until Partey is back
  • Play a midfield 3 with Lokonga, El Neny, Xhaka
  • Of course if Xhaka is played at LB, we would need to play other options in midfield…

We could also revert to a back 5 as Holding has been playing well…and Tavares may be more comfortable in that set-up together with Cedric…

Ramsdale – Holding, White, Gabs – Cedric, Lokonga, Xhaka, Tavares – Ode or ESR – Saka, Laca

Is that our best option in the end?

We do have a thin squad indeed and we have to make sure that we do our best with what we have but clearly we will need to invest in a CM, a FW and maybe we also need to consider keeping AMN (?) or bringing in another FB…

Anyways, race to Top 4 just got a little tougher…


Palace vs AFC…another tough hurdle for our Top 4 ambition…

April 4, 2022

One thing is for sure…securing Top 4 will be tough and then Tottenham is on a roll lately and with Conte at the helm, you know they will be fighting hard for that Top 4 finish…

Until we meet the Spuds, we have to make sure that (1) we always keep a 3 points cushion and (ii) we also keep up with a good goal difference…

So tonight’s game is again super important in the Top 4 race and the least we can say is that Vieira is doing a good job at Palace. They have found their shape, their style and do have some good players in Gallagher, Zaha, McArthur, Guehi, Kouyate, Edouard, Schlupp, Olise, Benteke and Butland, Gaita and even Ayew.

They play in a 4-3-3 and a rather direct style, use the wings a lot but do have some central threat as well. Andersen could be bothered though as his position is sometimes suspect and he can make the odd error. I d put him under pressure…

So here is our predicted line-up:

Leno – Cedric, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka – Saka, Ode, Martinelli – Laca

My preferred line-up

Leno – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka – Saka, Ode, MENDES – Laca

I d play our FB up front as I think he could be key going forward and defensively and then I d like to bring in Martinelli, ESR and Nketiah to deal the final blow 😛

COYG!